STIRRING UP LIKES: HOW TO MARKET YOUR BAR IN THE DIGITAL WORLD
It’s unusual for bars and restaurants to not be active online these days. But, with so much noise and competition in a crowded digital space, we hear from Marian Beke of The Gibson on what it takes to make your venue stand out from the crowd.
There have been major shifts in the last decade in how we engage our customers in the hospitality trade. Especially in big towns or cities, where there are so many venues scrambling to capture peoples’ time and attention, having an online presence has never been so important.
Social media is always top of the list, but there are plenty of other influential online spaces worth thinking about. So many people trust third-party sources, like Yelp or TripAdvisor, using peer reviews, comments and images or video to influence their choice of bar or restaurant. So, it is likely you are already ‘online’ even without your input!
WHY GET ONLINE?
There are plenty of benefits to improving your online presence:
1. Get your message and drinks out there cheaply and efficiently and interact directly with interested audiences
2. Boost your reputation and connect with more customers (and, in turn, attract new ones)
3. Share your creations and get valuable feedback on everything from your cocktails to your venue concept
4. Open dialogues with guests and understand your customers better so you can tailor your offering exactly to your customer base
5. Access new ideas, trade education and worldwide connections in real time – it’s amazing that we can keep up with what bartenders in China, Peru or Iceland are doing and exchange ideas
In today’s digital age, it can actually make it hard to survive if people can’t find your venue on Google Maps or access your cocktail menu on their phones. At the Gibson, our key focus is social media – Instagram, Twitter, Facebook – but we also review our activity and interactions on other platforms regularly. Of course, this doesn’t mean responding to every like or arguing with every bad comment. Social media is accessible to everyone and you’re never going to please them all – nor should you try to! Sometimes there will be negativity online and it’s best not to bite. Just be sure you’re doing right by your bar or restaurant and think before you post – once it’s out there, there’s no turning back.
HOW TO GET STARTED
Taking the plunge into online and social media promotion can seem like a daunting task and it can be hard to know where to start. The first step is nominating someone to take charge of your venue’s online presence – preferably someone who’s already relatively digital-savvy. We have one team member responsible for our online output to ensure we’re consistent across all communications. She has built a social calendar and will oversee everything, working with other members in our team to capture our content and post it.
Start small to guarantee brand consistency. Interact with and support similar bars or businesses – they could be located nearby, or similar in mission/size or even complimentary (cocktail enthusiasts, bloggers, etc.). Start developing your network, regulate your posting and build from there. Bear in mind that different channels all have different purposes and functions, so make sure you’re getting the most out of each.
1. TripAdvisor/Yelp – Make sure you list your venue on online review sites as soon as possible and add up-to-date contact details so customers can get in touch quickly and easily. Add high-quality photos to your listing and encourage guests to leave reviews.
2. Facebook – With over 2 billion monthly users, Facebook is a must-have for any venue. Claim your places page so guests can check in and include current contact details. Add a visually appealing cover and profile picture, interact and communicate with customers and encourage guests to leave reviews. With Facebook, you also have the option to pay for adverts (or sponsored posts) to specifically target guests in your town or city. If you have the budget, this can be a quick and effective way to boost your online visibility, but it’s not essential for success!
3. Twitter – Though not as popular as it once was, Twitter is still an important tool for venues to engage with customers and be part of wider conversations in the industry. Keep an eye on relevant hashtags and identify and interact with other bars and drinks enthusiasts to put your venue on the map.
4. Instagram – Instagram is a very visual promotional tool, so consider the content you’re creating and how people will be consuming it. We enlisted the help of a professional photographer and we’ve noticed a huge uptake in our content since. Of course, many venues won’t be in a position to do this, so it’s important to get acquainted with the fundamentals of photography. Most people have great lenses on their phones these days, and understanding the basics of things like lighting, aperture and bokeh will enable you to translate your ideas online easily. Ensure your drinks are optimized for photography by using fresh ingredients and inventive garnishes.
For captions, we tend to lean towards simplicity – don’t overcomplicate things and tag the related brands or promotions to ensure you’re reaching the right audiences. On both Instagram and Facebook, beware of over posting! We typically aim for one post per day to avoid overloading our followers’ feeds. Any more than that and people will start blocking or unfollowing your venue.
FLAVOR FIRST, FOLLOWERS SECOND
At The Gibson, we don’t create drinks for their online value. We create drinks for their flavors and focus on achieving the right atmosphere at the bar. If guests want to share their visit online then great, but we’re focused on getting things right in person. There’s always a risk that bars will get carried away and focus on followers rather than guests, and it’s an easy trap to fall into, especially if you’re just starting out in the industry or have opened a new bar. There’s a lot of pressure to succeed in the digital world, but I would stress that whilst it may be great to have 10,000 likes on a drink – what’s the point if you can’t make them efficiently on a busy Friday night or if they taste so bad guests don’t finish them?